In light of the recent terrorist attack in Paris, your children may be grappling with the sobering weight and implications of this tragedy and other attacks that happened this year. How do you respond and help them deal with these devastating incidents? Here are some suggestions on how you can guide them in processing these events.
There are typically two ways your children may respond to these attacks, they may be indifferent or overly affected by it.
Don't Avoid Discussing the Tragedy
If your child is seemingly unaware of these attacks or if they do not seem to care about it if they know, you may wish to bring it to their attention and teach them how to respond to them in a compassionate manner.
Being confronted with one tragic event after another can easily cause us to be desensitized to their sorrowful implications, and we certainly do not want to encourage apathy to tragedy in our children. Help them to develop compassion from young.
But as you raise the subject with your child, do not overwhelm him or her with a barrage of questions. Instead, find appropriate opportunities to talk about it with them. They may find it easier to express themselves openly while sharing an activity with you side-by-side. Guide them to think about such events through the perspective of sympathy and social responsibility.
Don't Obsess Over the Tragedy
At the same time, it is not healthy to give too much attention to these incidents such that we only see doom and gloom in the world. You may wish to protect your child from media overload. Read a book together instead of watching the evening news. The younger the child, the more damaging the exposure to graphic images will be.
Remember to point them to positive events happening in the world to provide a balanced view of reality. Remind them that just as there is unfortunately ugliness and evil in this world, there is also love and goodness and hope.
Assure Your Child
If your child is troubled by what has happened, help them to process what they are feeling. Accept your child’s emotions as they are. Help them to voice out what they are feeling, validate these feelings, and enter into such emotions with them. Let him or her know that it is healthy and normal to feel sad when bad things happen.
Kids take great comfort from knowing that someone is in charge. Assure your child that trained people are on the job doing everything possible to reverse the damage and meet the needs of the victims. Let them know that the government and police are addressing the injustice, and medical and counseling teams are attending to the injured and families of those affected.
Perhaps you might like to ask your child how they would respond if they are in a position to do something. This lets them know that everyone has a part to play in overcoming the consequences of tragedy in the world.
Build Your Child's Sense of Safety and Responsibility
Children have an incredible ability to ask the most insightful questions in the simplest ways. Here are some ways we can respond when they want to know how such terrible things can happen:
- First, don’t shut down the discussion. Encourage your child to grapple with hard questions. You don’t have to know all the answers, you just have to be willing to listen to and engage with your child. If you have teenagers, give them the freedom to wrestle with the ethical and philosophical implications of what they’re experiencing. Take time to discuss these issues openly and honestly.
- Explain to them that each one of us has the ability to choose whether we will do good or evil. Help your child understand that making bad choices is not just a personal problem, but it also affects the people around us. This encourages them to make good choices.
- Remind your child that you will always be there for him or her if something bad were to happen to them. This assures them you will always be there for them and they won’t have to deal with negative incidents alone.
The most immediate and practical thing you can do as a family is to strengthen your relationships with one another. This is one thing that is within your control in a world where unpredictable disasters strike. This is also a positive thing your child can hold on to. Strong and healthy family relationships is a shining example of love and goodness and hope in a dark world.
Adapted from Helping Children Deal with Trauma and Disaster Copyright © 2015 Focus on the Family.